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New BMW 330e The 3 Series Gets Hybrid Power.

288hp, eh? How’s it make the power?

By combining the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine you’ll find in the regular 320i with an electric motor that’s neatly integrated into the eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox.

The packaging is so good that the casing is just 15mm longer, compared with the standard eight-speed auto fitted elsewhere in the 3-series range. Having the motor in this position is great for efficiency, too – particularly when it comes to brake-energy regeneration.

The petrol engine provides 181bhp and 221lb ft, while the electric motor gives up to 111bhp and an instant 195lb ft – although as is usually the case with hybrid systems, you can’t just add those two figures together to get the car’s total power output.

How does the Xtra Boost work?

We were hoping for a nitrous-style button – similar to Porsche’s Sport Response. But in fact it’s just an additional element of the BMW’s Sport driving mode settings, and is activated selecting this and then stamping on the accelerator.

However, because the jump to 289bhp is delivered entirely by jolting an extra 40bhp out of the electric motor, the response is quite impressive.
So much so BMW reckons that from 12mph it’ll give you twice the ‘vigour’ of a similarly powerful conventional car within a second

It works well, then?

In accelerative terms, absolutely. Give the right pedal the stomping it fully deserves, and the 330e is like a rabbit with a lurcher on its back – it squirts off with real determination to get to the next turn before everything behind it.

Being a BMW, it also has the chassis chops to carry that initial acceleration into the corners without sailing into the scenery. Or getting its head bitten off.

On paper, 0-62mph takes 5.9sec, but that doesn’t quite do the in-motion effort justice. Out on the autobahn it seems to build speed quicker than the 330d we’d driven earlier in the day – although that was a Touring, so carrying more body weight than an equivalent saloon. and after three seconds you’ll be a full car length ahead.

What’s the hybrid power of the 330e like?

Hard not to be impressed. It’s now able to drive up to 41 miles on electric power alone, and there are an increased number of options to make the most of this e-efficiency.

For instance, you can set a guide percentage of battery life you’d like to retain should you wish to save the e-power for when you’re in a low emissions zone or trying to creep up the drive without waking the neighbours and the car will do its best to manage this on your behalf.

So far, so good what’s the catch here?

Sure, it’s certainly quick. But the four-cylinder engine sounds like it’s straining for relief when you wind it up with or without the extra-dynamic acoustics activated in the Sport settings and something has happened to the athleticism of the chassis, presumably as a result of accommodating the hybrid batteries.

Don’t get us wrong this is still a car that will swallow a series of bends without blinking, and comes back hungry for more. It’s just that a little of the joy has gone missing from the process, as exhibited by the slightly light and artificial feel to the steering (again, even in the heaviest Sport setting), and a stuttering chop when laterally loading the suspension.